My Faith vs. my faith
A friend of mine referred me to a recent article written by Mark Michalski on the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski who died in 2009 at the age of 81. I, like my friend, was drawn to Kolakowski and some of what he stood for.
I ordered two of Kolakowski’s books referenced in the article: Religion: If There Is No God– : On God, the Devil, Sin, and Other Worries of the So-Called Philosophy of Religion and the second book, Is God Happy? In commenting on the first (Religion), the author of the article says, “The book is more a search than a definite statement, and more provocative than conclusive.” To this I enthusiastically reply, “So this is a book that raises deep, existential and unanswerable core questions without forcing answers — yes, my kind of book, my kind of thinker, my kind of philosopher!” (An aside: In my normal zest for such things, I bought the book immediately. It is out of print, and, while I balked at the price at $23 for a used copy, proceeded to buy it. Now today, three days later, when I look on line at Amazon the lowest price for a used copy of this book is not $23 but $123. I smile, sensing that I followed inner Guidance even here.)
About Kolakowski’s book Religion the author of the article notes that Kolakowski suggests that: “Faith is a function of an attitude. Anyone who sees signs of God’s presence in life admits that faith precedes his acts of reading these signs, not the other way around. Thus, the old wisdom is confirmed that neither learning nor scientific sophistication makes anybody’s Christian faith better. The strength of Christianity does not rest on its prophecies and miracles but on the way of the cross. Kolakowski seems to be convinced that the experience of daily life allows people with faith, strong beliefs, and a purposeful order to see ultimate meaning in everything. The importance and value of such an attitude is that one is better prepared to sustain the inevitable blows of destiny and not to succumb to despair.”
I find these to be powerful words! To repeat, Kolakowski argues that faith comes neither from study (of the bible or other scriptures or texts or books or dogmas) nor from scientific investigation of the mind (experiences, tests, or studies of brain physics). I would add that it does not come as if “magical” — Beck’s Purple Meme — from sacrament (not wanting to offend, but as claimed in a way in my Lutheran upbringing) or ritual either, nor is it a matter of the will choosing to believe, that is, the will, casting all logic aside, choosing to take a “blind leap of faith,” or not. So where does faith come from?
The Pathwork Lectures invites us to consider that faith, like love, truth, wisdom, creativity, peace, or, say, the Four Immeasurables of Buddhism (Love, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity), are all aspects of the Divine. The Pathwork Lectures also invite us to consider that at our Essence we are Divine (and human) (see my blog entry on hypostatic union), and hence that Faith and other Divine Aspects are revealed and manifest in and through us as we live our lives and do our personal and spiritual development work of purification and transformation. This description of faith is beautifully described in the opening section of Pathwork Question and Answer session #63. I also find that Pages 9 and 10 in the Devotional Version of Pathwork Lecture 250 Inner Awareness of Grace – Exposing the Deficit state that both grace and faith “just are.” These qualities are the permanent unchanging realities of the cosmos, and our job is to clarify our vision by finding and dissolving illusions, misconceptions, images and faults that obscure the Truth in all of Life in and around us.
And how do we do this work of finding and dissolving? By self-confrontation, prayer, meditation, group-work, emotional processing work, and the like. I would add to this, for me, working carefully and consistently with the Pathwork Lectures – not to convince myself of the veracity of their words and ideas (which would make me once again dependent on still another authority – here Pathwork – a submission that is anathema to Pathwork, especially when applied to Pathwork), but rather by opening to the possibilities of the truth presented there and doing the work described throughout the lectures.
Why have I wrestled so much with faith, in a way fearing and resisting it? I am seeing that one of my main images is that I have to find and believe the truth in order to be in union with God and others, and I must do this finding and believing the truth as a separate and “merely and utterly” human being.
Yes, I have learned well the Lutheran position that as a separate human being I cannot know truth and come to faith in Jesus Christ (as stated in the “What does this mean?” section from the Third Article of the Apostles Creed). These well-memorized words from my earliest years state, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.” But then what follows confuses me, “but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” So bible study apart from the Holy Spirit cannot work such faith. Yet, for my part, I have honestly and earnestly studied the bible faithfully for 50 years or more – and was eagerly open to take in the words of scriptures, to let God the Holy Spirit work on my soul. So have I not done my part? Do I have a part? My confusion on this central point leaves me with a paradox and conundrum. This conundrum, for me, seems to me to be answered by the teachings of the Pathwork Lectures.
AND it seems to me that, since Pathwork has so helped me in this matter, that Pathwork must be, in fact, one of the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” for me, even if for no other person. The words of Pathwork inspire me, inform me, excite me, and awaken me. Is not this “inspiring, informing, exciting, and awakening” experience a gift of God, yes, of God within, of the God that is at One with my Holy Essence?
But again, as Kolakowski argues, I cannot answer this question apart from a pre-existent Faith. So Faith, to the degree that I have Faith, is already part of my Holy Essence. It manifests as I open to truth and surrender to God. And such opening and surrendering is already evidence of my pre-existent Faith.
What great freedom, peace, and joy come from this awakening. I do not have to “confess” or “believe” anything that is not already Known by me through the Faith that lives in my Holy Essence. For example, I do not have to believe any phrase, any concept, any dogma, or any word in the Bible or teaching of any church that currently seems out of line with what I Know through my pre-existent Faith. I can safely trust only what I already Know by Faith.
BUT this does not mean that my little-s self knows what my big-S Self Knows. So there is a life-long revealing from within, stimulated by life experiences, others, and writings of all types. I can Trust my innermost Guidance, even though my outermost sense of this guidance, subject to my limitations as a “merely and utterly human being,” may be limited, distorted, or even wrong. I can experience Peace when I am aligned with Truth as Known by Faith. But I can also experience fear when I am not fully aligned with Truth as Known by Faith.
This makes faith a continuous process of coming ever closer to Faith. “By the Holy Spirit” means only that this faith process is furthered and enlivened by that part of me that Knows Truth through Faith, that is, by my Higher Self, or my Divine Essence, or what I have been naming my Holy Essence. The Peace that surpasses all little-u understanding is the Peace that is of God, of my God Essence. Yes, it is My Peace, but then all is One, so it is truly the Peace of God that arises and emanates from My Holy Essence, that Part of me that is One with God and All Beings. Amen. Hallelujah!
Shared in love, Gary